On the Myth of "The Raven and the First Men"

Essay by pronothingCollege, UndergraduateB, November 2007

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OED defines a myth as “a traditional story involving supernatural beings or forces or creatures”. In this sense, “The Raven and the First Men” by Bill Reid is a myth because it involves the raven, which is a supernatural creature that encounters the first humans. The raven is featured prominently in First Nations mythologies and coaxes the first humans out of the clamshell. OED also states that a myth must have a justification of a “religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon”. Accordingly, “The Raven and the First Men” is a creation myth that justifies the beginning of humans according to the Haida First Nations.

Cultures create myths for the purpose of explaining events or concepts outside the realm of human understanding, which was why mythology and storytelling was a prominent feature of the Haida society like the cultures of other early humans. One such concept is the origin of humans, which “The Raven and the First Men” explains in the Haida culture.

A common aspect of the different myths of cultures is that the explanations that they give are not scientific since science rejects the supernatural. In “The Raven and the First Men”, the supernatural element is the clamshell that contained the humans and the Raven, which is monstrously large and is credited with the creation of the world. Since myths were created thousands of years ago by early humans, science was not at their disposal and only through mythology could the early humans answer complex questions. However, mythology no longer plays an important role in today’s society like the raven myth did in the Haida society because myths do not give viable explanations that satisfy the people of today’s society.

According to Tad Beckam’s article, “Raven Tales of the Northwest”, an anthropomorphic trickster character always plays tricks...